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You Can Help Give a Secure Future to Generations of Americans

Today is Giving Tuesday which is an international day of giving. It’s a chance for us to look beyond the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the shopping and the demands of it all to stop and ask ourselves – how can I make a difference?

In today’s political environment, that question is especially important for millions of American seniors and their families who depend on our nation’s retirement and health security safety net.

The future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will impact the lives of virtually every American family, today and for generations to come.  The heart of America’s promise to provide economic and health security is more important now than ever before.  Yet, many in Washington have vowed to shred our nation’s middle-class safety net by privatizing Medicare and Social Security and block-granting Medicaid. 

Your Giving Tuesday contributions help us spread the word, educate and advocate in Washington to protect and strengthen, not privatize and cut benefits you have contributed to throughout your working lives.

Share our graphics with your friends and consider giving to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare on this Giving Tuesday. You can donate today

Giving Thanks for Medicare

Medicare Inertia Costs Seniors Millions Each Year

It’s Open Enrollment season...have you looked at your Medicare Part D and Advantage plans to ensure they still work for you?

Each year, both Medicare Advantage and Part D plans make changes to their benefits, cost-sharing, provider networks and monthly premiums. That means the plan that best served you in 2016 may not be the best plan for you next year.

US News reports:

“According to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly 8 in 10 people enrolled in a Part D or Medicare Advantage plan stick with the same policy from one year to the next. That may be the path of least resistance, but it's probably not the cheapest. Last year, eHealthMedicare.com found that people willing to switch policies to one that offered better coverage for their particular drug regimen saved roughly $600 on prescription drug costs when they switched Part D plans. Savings jumped to more than $1,000 for those who changed their Medicare Advantage plans.”

We certainly understand why so many beneficiaries choose inertia rather than the tedious and often challenging task of comparing the various private insurance plans offered in Medicare Advantage and Part D. However, given that Americans 65 and older spend 12% (and more as they age) of their income on health care, it’s especially important that seniors take the time to ensure last year’s plans still meet their needs. 

Open enrollment continues through Dec. 7.  You’ve got a some time left so please take a look at your plans. 

Medicare Privatization Tops the GOP Agenda

Well, that didn’t take long.  Just days after the election and already the GOP has confirmed, what we’ve been warning for months.  Destroying traditional Medicare in favor of a privatized CouponCare system is at the top of the Republican agenda.  In fact, they want it to happen as soon as next year.

“Below is a transcript of what Ryan said on Fox's Special Report, along with a flat out false statement suggesting that Obamacare has weakened Medicare's finances.

BRET BAIER: Your solution has always been to put things together including entitlement reform. That is Paul Ryan's plan. That's not Donald Trump's plan.

PAUL RYAN: Well, you have to remember, when Obamacare became Obamacare, Obamacare rewrote Medicare, rewrote Medicaid. If you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well. What a lot of folks don't realize is this 21-person board called the ipap is about to kick in with price controls on Medicare. What people don't realize is because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke, Medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, Medicaid is in fiscal straits. You have to deal with those issues if you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare. Medicare has serious problems [because of] Obamacare. Those are part of our plan.” ...Talking Points Memo

Let’s be crystal clear about this – without Obamacare, Medicare’s Part A trust fund would have faced insolvency now.  Instead, because of the cost savings in the Affordable Care Act, including; trimming the billions in government subsidies going to the insurance industry in Medicare Advantage and productivity adjustments to how Medicare pays providers the program gained more than a decade of solvency.

“The net result was that the “insolvency” date was extended by 12 years. Before the law was passed, the trustees said in 2009, the fund was going to be depleted in 2017. “The short-range financial outlook for the HI [hospital insurance] trust fund is substantially more favorable than projected in last year’s annual report, primarily as a result of the Affordable Care Act,” the Medicare trustees said in their 2010 report, saying the fund would last until 2029.”...Washington Post

Fact checkers appropriately gave Speaker Ryan Four Pinnochios for this obvious lie:

“Medicare certainly faces financial stress as the baby-boom generation begins to retire in full force, but it’s important to get the facts straight. It’s bad enough that Ryan, like many politicians, uses imprecise rhetoric such as “broke”; that’s a Two-Pinocchio violation. But the House speaker really went off the rails when he said on national television that Obamacare is making the program go broke. That’s the exact opposite of what happened.”

 

 

As we’ve said here before, repeal of the ACA will have an immediate impact on seniors. While Republicans continue their cynical promise that “reforms” won’t touch current seniors (because they believe America’s “greedy geezers” only care about their own benefits and don’t care about what happens to their children and grandchildren) the truth is, repealing Obamacare hits millions of American seniors immediately and robs the Part A trust fund of more than a decade of solvency:  

“Medicare’s financing challenges would be much greater without the health reform law (the Affordable Care Act, or ACA), which substantially improved the program’s financial outlook.  Repealing the ACA, a course of action promoted by some who simultaneously claim that the program is approaching “bankruptcy,” would worsen Medicare’s financial situation.”... Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“The Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare's financing by increasing efforts to reduce waste, fraud and abuse; slowing the rate of increase in payments to providers; improving quality of care and phasing out overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans, plans that are continuing to increase their enrollments each year.  The impact of these provisions has already resulted in extending the solvency of the Medicare Part A Trust Fund by more than a decade and lowering Part B out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries.

In addition to Medicare beneficiaries, the Affordable Care Act is very important to millions of adults ages 50-64 who are uninsured because they do not have access to affordable private insurance.  Many of these individuals are now able to purchase private insurance even if they have pre-existing medical conditions, and costs are more affordable due to the law's limits on age rating and the subsidies available for lower-income beneficiaries.

The number of uninsured “young seniors,” aged 50-64, would increase, leaving them in poorer health by the time they are eligible for Medicare – thereby increasing Medicare’s costs.”...NCPSSM, 2015 ACA Repeal Letter to Congress

And all of this only addresses the clearly false assertion made by Speaker Ryan that Medicare is going “bankrupt” and that Obamacare is the reason.  What is equally important for seniors to understand is what Ryan’s CouponCare plan actually means for them. We’ll address that more completely in a future post but as a reminder:  the Ryan plan will end traditional Medicare, privatizing it, while raising seniors’ costs.  Under CouponCare seniors pay more for less coverage.

The GOP’s voucher plan works this way:

•           Rather than you going to your doctor and Medicare pays the bill, under CouponCare the federal government will give you a voucher each year that you will then use to go out and buy private insurance out in the open market or to pay for Medicare.

•           However, those coupons’ values are based on the cost of Medicare in a particular community or the second lowest private health insurance plan, whichever is cheaper.  So if, you choose to stay in traditional Medicare, and it costs more than virtually the cheapest plan out there, you’ll pay more.  Let’s be really clear, vouchers are designed to shift costs to seniors.  That’s how the government saves money. 

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates 59% of seniors would have to pay higher premiums in order to receive the same Medicare plans they now have, with the average premium increase coming in at $107 per month, they didn’t even look at co-pays and out-of-pocket costs. 

The Congressional Budget Office looked at this in 2011 and said it would double beneficiaries’ costs.

After George Bush won re-election in 2004 and the Republicans controlled Congress, privatizing Social Security was the first order of business.  Here were go again -- but this time your Medicare is the target. The American people don’t support privatizing Medicare; however, it has long been the goal of conservatives who believe seniors should be forced back into a private insurance marketplace which history has proven, over and over again, they simply can’t afford. 

The Trump Conundrum: He Can’t Keep His Promise to Seniors While Also Repealing Obamacare

Donald Trump made a lot of promises to the American people during the Presidential campaign.  For seniors, who supported him overwhelmingly, none was more important that his promise “not to touch” middle-class benefits in Social Security and Medicare.  There’s no doubt his political calculus during this campaign accurately tapped in to a core middle-class value: 

"As Republicans, if you think you are going to change very substantially for the worse Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in any substantial way, and at the same time you think you are going to win elections, it just really is not going to happen."...Donald Trump, 2013 CPAC speech, Washington Times

The problem for President-elect Trump is that the American people fully expect his administration to now keep that campaign promise. Unfortunately, preserving Medicare and Social Security benefits could be among the first of his promises to go. Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have vowed the repeal of the Affordable Care Act will be one of their first acts. For seniors, that means billions in lost Medicare benefits, the return of the Part D prescription drug donut hole and years of solvency taken from Medicare. Millions of seniors will immediately feel the effects of these Medicare cuts which will weaken the program itself.

“The Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare's financing by increasing efforts to reduce waste, fraud and abuse; slowing the rate of increase in payments to providers; improving quality of care and phasing out overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans, plans that are continuing to increase their enrollments each year.  The impact of these provisions has already resulted in extending the solvency of the Medicare Part A Trust Fund by more than a decade and lowering Part B out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries.

In addition to Medicare beneficiaries, the Affordable Care Act is very important to millions of adults ages 50-64 who are uninsured because they do not have access to affordable private insurance.  Many of these individuals are now able to purchase private insurance even if they have pre-existing medical conditions, and costs are more affordable due to the law's limits on age rating and the subsidies available for lower-income beneficiaries. 

The number of uninsured “young seniors,” aged 50-64, would increase, leaving them in poorer health by the time they are eligible for Medicare – thereby increasing Medicare’s costs.”...NCPSSM, 2015 ACA Repeal Letter to Congress

In addition to the immediate Medicare cuts that come with the repeal of Obamacare, the Republican Congress has made it clear another top priority is to turn Medicare into CouponCare.  In fact, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPac), has already announced it will include analysis of the GOP’s Medicare privatization plan in its annual report next year. The Republican plans for Medicare, passed in GOP budgets over many years was most recently described in the “A Better Way” campaign led by House Speaker Paul Ryan.  It has already been embraced by Vice President-elect Mike Pence:

“What’s so inspiring to me is how much consistency there is between Donald Trump and the agenda House Republicans have put forward with a ‘Better Way.'”...Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Again, President-elect Trump won’t be able to have it both ways on this issue.  If he wants to preserve seniors’ benefits in Medicare, as promised during the campaign, then adopting a voucher plan designed to shift costs to seniors fundamentally violates that pledge. Privatizing Medicare with a voucher plan, will leave seniors and people with disabilities – some of our most vulnerable Americans – hostage to the whims of private insurance companies and making it even harder for seniors to choose their own doctors. Beneficiaries will pay more money for less coverage because vouchers will not keep up with the increasing cost of health insurance. That is how the program saves money – at seniors’ expense. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office predicted the CouponCare proposal in the GOP’s 2011 budget would cost seniors $20,000 more each year. Over time, this proposal will create a death-spiral ending traditional Medicare. This scheme is, by definition, the antithesis of “not touching” seniors’ benefits.

This conundrum for the Trump administration doesn’t end there. On Social Security, unfortunately, the warning signs for seniors are just as alarming.  Trump advisors and the Republican platform have made it clear that “entitlements” will very likely be on the agenda of a Trump presidency.

“After the administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. We’ll start taking a hard look at those to start seeing what we can do in a bipartisan way.”

“...I think that whoever [is] the next president is going to have a horrible time in dealing with this, because those entitlements will race to the front of all the economic issues we have in this country.”  Sam Clovis, Trump campaign Chief Policy Advisor, May 2016

"I think you're going to see him do it across the board on entitlements."

"He's not making the case because it's a political suicide to make this case. If you go up and start saying I'm going to attack Social Security, I'm going to attack Medicaid...there goes those votes. So no smart politician is going to step into this milieu."

"At the end of the day, somebody's gotta say you've got to move the retirement age up two years."...Tom Barrack, Trump Economic Advisor, August 2016

The American people have spoken.  They said they wanted change – they got it.  And yet...they’ve also made it clear they don’t support cutting middle-class benefits for millions of American families who depend on Social Security and Medicare. Time will tell whether President Trump will keep the promises candidate Trump has made and what this “change” election will actually mean to workers who’ve earned their Social Security and Medicare benefits and expect them to be protected, as promised. 

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(202) 216-8414

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